The Western Reserve girls cross country team — ranked in the state coaches poll several times this season — again didn’t have a top three finisher. But the Roughriders still ran away with the team title at Saturday’s Firelands Conference championships at Mapleton High School.
Western had four runners finish fifth-through-eighth overall within nine seconds of each other, including three runners less than two seconds apart. That helped the ‘Riders to 39 points, plenty of room ahead of New London (53) and St. Paul (80) in the team standings.
“We knew we had a difficult and challenging task ahead of us to win the championship,” Western coach Brad Perkins said. “There are outstanding teams and programs all through our conference. We had no doubt New London and St. Paul would give us all we could handle — and that was definitely the case.”
Brooke Perkins was the top finisher in fifth for Western, turning in a time of 21:22.28. She was followed by Tabi Pausch (21:29.22), Chelsey Shawver (21:29.76) and Ashlyn Barnhardt (21:31.61).
Also for Western, McKenna Woodruff (22:03.48) was 13th, and Aliyah Perez (22:13.48) was 15th and Allison Shawver (23:53.44) was 30th.
“The girls have totally bought in to a team first approach all season,” Perkins said. “They set goals for themselves early on and it never mattered which athlete earned the top spot each week — it was all about were the team finished.
“They are an extremely hard working, supportive and focused group, which made seeing them reach one of their goals very rewarding,” he added.
Kaylin Williams was second overall (20:30.20) and Gabrielle Osterland (20:32.70) was right behind in third place to pace the New London girls.
Also for the Wildcats, Abigail Goon (21:57.15) was 12th, followed by Savannah Shaver (22:18.91) in 17th, Dana Gustely (22:34.11) in 19th, Esther Schmidt (23:49.80) in 29th and Abbey Keller (24:25.77) in 33rd.
“The girls ran strong, as that’s the closest we’ve been to Western this year,” New London coach Keith Landis said. “Hats off to Coach Perkins and their girls. It was another solid race for our top five.
“Kaylin, Gabby, Abigail and Savannah have been running well most of the year, but Dana really stepped up today,” he added.
Also from the area, Monroeville’s Callie Rosser (21:36.34) was ninth, and her teammate Adelynn Kradlak (22:44.81) was 22nd. Others who competed for the Eagles on Saturday included Kristen Smith (23:06.54) in 25th, Rachel Carey (23:10.51) in 26th and Emily Kradlak (27:47.49) in 45th.
Plymouth’s Olivia Fidler (22:17.28) was the top finisher for the Big Red in 16th. Her teammates included Gracie Roberts (24:33.08) in 34th, Eliza Redden (25:11.96) in 37th, Claudia Caudill (25:28.89) in 38th, Natalie Snyder (26:30.58) in 43rd and Emma Redden (26:58.88) in 44th.
New London boys runners-up
In a battle of state-ranked programs, it was host Mapleton (42) distancing itself from New London (66) for the team title.
A pair of Mounties took both first and second place. New London entered the race ranked 13th in the Division III state coaches poll, while the Mounties were 14th.
Curtis Joppeck was fourth overall for the Wildcats in 16:40.14. He was followed by Carson Coey (17:09.69) in sixth, Dominic Albaugh (17:47.86) in 15th and Cole Kropka (17:56.72) in 17th, Mitchell Joppeck (18:04.86) in 24th, Court Britt (18:15.34) in 26th and Austin Reed (19:12.69) in 36th.
“Coach (Joe) Ortiz has Mapleton running very well right now,” Landis said. “Curt ran a lifetime best with the 16:40. Hopefully we can build off of today's performance and be ready to compete at districts. Both teams hope to make a tournament run.”
St. Paul’s Jared Arnold was the top area boys finisher, taking third in 16:31.35. His teammate, Noah Avandano, was fifth (16:51.64), while Zack Stine (17:54.87) was 16th for the Flyers.
Also for St. Paul, Sam Sigsworth (18:08.35) was 25th, Luke Ceccoli (19:04.67) was 34th, Ryan Gross (20:21.97) was 40th and Ryan Walker (22:37.69) was 43rd.
For Western Reserve, Trevor Tucker was 10th (17:34.28), followed by Breckyn Hunter (17:58.92) in 20th and Eli Webb (18:01.89) in 22nd. Also for the ‘Riders, Sam Beaudin (18:41.76) was 29th, Aidan Fry-Silva (18:49.98) was 31st, Damian Henning (19:07.90) was 35th and Mason Church (20:11.67) was 38t.
St. Paul was fourth (83) as a team and Western (12) was fifth.
Plymouth’s Levi Robinson (17:29.31) was eighth overall, and Monroeville’s Clayton Littlejohn was 13th (17:45.59).
Also for the Big Red, Ethan Elliot (18:35.94) was 28th, followed by Justin Robinson (18:46.84) in 30th, Nick Bowser (19:00.37) in 33rd, Michael Collins (19:49.09) in 37th, Gaige Porter (21:03.14) in 41st and Dylan Heynes (21:21.17) in 42nd.
The state tournament trail begins at 11 a.m. on Saturday for area FC runners at the Division III district championships at Galion.